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What Do I Have To Be Grateful For?

canstockphoto7797192The cooler fall air is the first indicator that the season of thankfulness and gratitude is upon us, but what if you don’t feel that you have anything to be grateful for this year? Perhaps your life has been plagued by chaos and uncertainty. Grief, job loss, depression, problematic relationships, and isolation are just a few of the things that can lead to feelings of apathy towards life and general ungratefulness. How can we combat this discontent and find gratitude and joy again?

Start as You Mean to Go

This is a phrase that I use often for a number of situations, but I think that it is particularly applicable when talking about gratitude. Simply begin your day as you want it to go for the remainder. Make the choice of gratitude as soon as you wake in the morning. Before you climb out of bed to begin your day, take a moment and find one thing, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential it may be, for which you are thankful. This choice to start with a grateful heart will set the tone for the day.

Stop and Smell the Roses

An overly used cliché, I know, but it’s true. It’s hard to be truly grateful if we are so busy living that we don’t take the time to appreciate the little things that make life worth living. Be mindful of what is happening around you, and take the time to truly experience and appreciate the small blessings, victories, and learning opportunities that life has to offer.

Look Outside Yourself

What better way to forget about our problems than to look around and see the problems that other people are dealing with? This isn’t to say that we should take joy in others’ pain and suffering, but to use it to put our problems into perspective. Stepping outside of ourselves and helping those that are less fortunate enables us to really appreciate the good in our lives, as meager as it may be, and also to recognize that there is always someone that has less.

Find a Purpose

Find a purpose in life that gives your life meaning. Maybe this means volunteering your time to a cause that is close to your heart, finding fulfillment in your family or career, or deciding to go back to school. The possibilities are endless. Whatever your direction, find something which you are passionate and excited about and share it.

Have an Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude is a choice. Choose a life of gratitude by having an attitude of gratitude that starts as soon as you wake in the morning. Find the things that you appreciate about your life and celebrate them, no matter the size. Slow down and take the time to seek out and appreciate the lessons that life has to offer, even the hard ones. Life is hard, and there are plenty of opportunities to get down, but look to others to gain insight and perspective of your challenges. Lastly, find your purpose. We aren’t all going to find a cure for cancer or negotiate world peace, but we all have the chance to leave this world better than we found it.

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Anxiety Disorders: Meditation is Helpful Medicine

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According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are affecting over 18% of the American population, making it the most common mental health issue in the United States (adaa.org). Anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic Disorder (PD)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Specific Phobias
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

Alarmingly, little more than one third of the people suffering from any form of Anxiety disorder are getting treatment (adaa.org). Often the barriers to treatment include not knowing that treatment is available or where to find it, or not wanting to resort to medications. Some people may not realize they have a diagnosable disorder, while other people may know they have it but not want to have to “do therapy.” If you or someone you know is not getting treatment for whatever reason, some lifestyle choices could help, including a clean, balanced diet, appropriate exercise, adequate sleep, and something that’s getting more attention in scientific research, meditation.

In January 2017, Psychiatry Research, a peer reviewed scientific journal, published the results of a randomized study that found significant reductions in stress related hormones in those participants who practiced Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as compared to the control group participants who did not (Hoge et al., 2017). Furthermore, when mindfulness techniques are combined with therapist guided cognitive-behavioral intervention the results are even more impressive and longer lasting (Evans, 2008). In short, working with a good therapist to learn healthy cognitive-behavioral habits and making good lifestyle choices—including practicing meditation on a daily basis—can go a long way toward helping you and/or your loved one overcome whatever form of Anxiety disorder you’re dealing with.

There are an abundance of free resources available to help you learn how to meditate.

  • YouTube offers countless videos of guided meditations. Some of my favorites are from Deepak Chopra.
  • You can download any number of meditation apps for your phone. I highly recommend Meditate Me, available only through the App Store for iOS devices.

Whatever resource you use, you’ll be glad you took the time and put the practice to the test!

Call us for an appointment with a skilled therapist.

Here’s to a peaceful life!

 

Evans, S., Ferrando, S., Findler, M., Stowell, C., Smart, C., & Haglin, D. (2008).

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 22, 716-721.

 

Hoge, E. A., Bui, E., Palitz, S. A., Schwarz, N. R., Owens, M. E., Johnston, J. M.,

Pollack, M. H., & Simon, N. M. (2017). The effects of mindfulness meditation training on biological acute stress responses in general anxiety disorder. PsychiatryResearch. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2017.01.006

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Ch-ch-changes… Turn to Face the Change: How Therapy Helps People Make Positive Change Daily

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Change is something we all do. This may include confronting new challenges in relationships, moving, starting a new job, or welcoming a new addition to the family. Changes, whether big or small, can be a difficult adjustment for anyone.

Let’s try a simple experiment. Tonight, I want you to change the way you brush your teeth.

As you are brushing your teeth, switch from brushing with the hand you usually do and use the opposite hand. I know that some of you will be thinking that will be quite easy, but you may be surprised by how difficult this simple change can be.

Some attempting this change might notice that your brush strokes feel uncomfortable, your arm is not operating in a manner you are accustomed to, and when you finish (if you finish brushing your teeth with your opposite hand), your teeth may not feel as clean! I know, I know ,some of us are blessed and are ambidextrous and this may be easy, but for me this task was not.

Changing brushing your teeth, just like any change in life, will feel uncomfortable, awkward, and difficult, but it is when we continue to work through those difficulties that we improve and grow. These changes may come by choice or can be unexpected.

Changes occur in many different ways; such as, changes in our mental state, making changes in a relationship(s), or even changes in our behavior can be difficult without any help. Where do we find help for changes? The simple answer to that is in therapy. Therapists are like an athlete hiring a coach or trainer. The therapist is trained in helping individuals, families, or couples make changes or achieve their goals. We all know that many athletes have natural abilities, but often they require another set of eyes to give them the guidance that they need to hone those abilities and develop to their greatest potential.

Therapeutic Relationship

One of the most important factors of making change with therapy is the therapeutic relationship. The therapeutic relationship is the trust you have with your therapist. It what makes you feel comfortable with him/her as you come frequently without judgment of what you have going on. This relationship can take time to develop, but depending on your therapist, you could feel comfortable  right away. This relationship means that your therapist is there to have what some call “real talk” with you and help you develop and improve. This means that at times, therapy might make you feel uncomfortable as you explore different aspects of change, but because of this therapeutic relationship, you keep coming back.

Your current or future therapist can be male or female, short or tall, and can even be a new or experienced therapists. The relationship with whichever therapist you choose is crucial. Research has shown that the therapeutic relationship is one of the most important indicators of therapy success (1). If you wanted to be a successful Olympiad, you find a coach or a trainer, right? So, when seeking to make real changes changes or improve, why do we not seek out a therapist?

The first step for many is reaching out to a therapist, which can be difficult. Going to therapy is often stigmatized as making the individual weak, helpless, a failure, or broken. Going to therapy does not make you any of those things, as we all have our individual struggles. Just by coming to therapy, you are showing strength and a desire to achieve and improve.

If you are considering therapy and are worried what it will be like, please come and see us at Wasatch Family Therapy. We strive to provide everyone who comes with a comfortable, safe and non-judgmental atmosphere so that those we see can succeed. Please do not hesitate to contact us at Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555.  Together, we can learn further tools to help you through your specific changes.

References

(1) Horvath, A.O. and Symonds, B.D. (1991) Relation between working alliance and outcome in psychotherapy: a meta-anaysis, Journal of Counseling Psychology, 38 (2), 139-149.

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Sexual Shame

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Dr. Tina Sellers, author of Sex, God, and the Conservative Church, defines sexual shame as “a visceral feeling of humiliation and disgust toward one’s own body and identity as a sexual being, and a belief of being abnormal, inferior, and unworthy.”

Most of us grew up in a culture where parents didn’t often talk openly with their kids about bodies and sex, and a good number of us still don’t really know what to say to our own kids about the topic. In schools, many sex-education courses focuses on abstinence and skirt around topics deemed more appropriate for home discussions. Combined with our distorted, sex-saturated media, it’s no wonder so many individuals grow up with feelings of shame or inadequacy surrounding their bodies and their sexuality.

These feelings interfere with the development of our most important relationships, but they don’t have to.

Dr. Sellers suggests four steps for overcoming sexual shame:

The first step is to Frame. Framing means gaining accurate information on sexuality. Some of my favorite books on bodies, sex, and intimacy are:

For kids: “Sex is a Funny Word” by Cory Silverberg

For girls: “The Care and Keeping of You” by Valorie Schaefer

For boys: “Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy” by Andrew Smiler

For parents of teens: “For Goodness Sex” by Al Vernacchio

On female sexuality: “Come as You Are” by Emily Nagoski

On male sexuality: “The New Male Sexuality, Revised Edition” by Bernie Zilbergeld

For LDS couples: “What Your Parents Didn’t Tell You About Sex” by Anthony Hughs

There are many more great resources out there. Having accurate and open information about your body and what “normal” looks like can help dispel the sexual myths you may have picked up growing up or through media. Education can calm anxiety and help lay out a plan for gaining the approach to sexuality that you’d like to have in your life.

Dr. Sellers’ second step is to Name.  This means finding a group you feel safe in, where you can tell your story and feel heard.  This could be a therapy group, it could be a book group (using any of the above suggestions!), it could be an online support group.  The important thing is to find a place where people can really hear and understand you so that you can name, or verbalize your own story.

The third step is Claim: Where sex is used so commonly to sell products (either by sexualizing our lunch or pointing out our flaws in order to get us to buy the product that will “fix” everything), media and marketing can throw a real punch to our sense of self worth. We need to claim our right to be okay just the way we are. If this is an area you struggle with, reading books and sharing your story can help, but sometimes you might find you need extra help learning to heal internalized shame. Find a therapist to talk to. Practice challenging negative self-talk.  Claim the amazing things that make you who you are.

The last step is Aim. Aim means to write a new story for yourself. We all have stories or narratives that we tell ourselves, and if the old one hasn’t been helpful, begin writing a new story. Learning to look at your past in new ways can help open up potential for growth and new discoveries in your future. Let the keyword for your new narrative be “hope.”

If you have struggled with shame in connection with your body or sexuality and it’s holding you back from creating the connection and pleasure you hope for in your relationships, call and schedule an appointment today at 801-944-4555.

 

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Do You Have Blind Spots?

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I had the opportunity to collaborate with Margarita Tartakovsky, associate editor for PsychCentral, about self-deception and the importance of being honest with ourselves.  It was a fascinating topic, particularly in understanding that honesty, even pain, can lead to growth:
https://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless/2017/09/how-to-tell-yourself-the-truth/
Whether you are consciously or unconsciously aware, your blind spots can keep you from the life lessons you need to learn.  A little bit of pain now can prevent you from experiencing a whole lot of it later!

 

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5 Things NOT to Say to a Pregnant Woman

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So someone in your life is going to be having a baby. How exciting! This can be a very fun time, not only for the expectant parents, but also for friends and family awaiting the arrival of a new little baby into the world. As someone who is currently pregnant and expecting my third child in a few weeks, I can say that while having people be interested and excited about your pregnancy is wonderful, there are also some comments that one could live without. If you are one of the many who is sometimes looking for ways to talk to someone in your life (or even a random stranger) about her pregnancy, here are a few of the “do’s and don’ts”:

Wow, you’re sure getting big!”

Any variation of this kind of statement is inappropriate. Things such as “Wow! You look like you’re going to pop any day!” or “Yep-you definitely look pregnant!” feel like you may as well be saying, “You look horrible and fat. I’ve definitely noticed your weight gain.” Individuals who make these kind of statements may think it’s okay to do so because a woman is expected to grow during her pregnancy, but it still doesn’t feel good to a vulnerable pregnant woman who already may be feeling uncomfortable and insecure with all the constant body changes that come with carrying a child. If you want to show that you notice or would like to acknowledge someone’s pregnancy, all you simply need to say is “You look great! How are you feeling?” or ask basic questions about the impending arrival, such as the due date, gender, etc.

“You shouldn’t wish for your pregnancy to end. Once it does, you’re not going to get any sleep, and you’ll be drowning in diapers!”

Sometimes, especially towards the end of a pregnancy, an expectant mother is asked about if she’s “ready” for her baby to come. She may reply by expressing just how ready she is, (because she can’t wait for the discomfort of pregnancy to end), people often fire back with this type of response. When a woman becomes pregnant, is she not supposed to want a baby at the end of it? Do you think she got pregnant because she loves morning sickness, aches, pains, heartburn, and low energy and just hopes it lasts forever?! There is enough anxiety and worry about the arrival of a new baby that pregnant women don’t need more negativity-even if it’s meant to be said in jest. If a person is talking about wanting to be done, a nice response might be, “I’m so excited for you! I can’t wait to meet the new addition!” or “When you’re feeling tired or overwhelmed, let me know. I’d be happy to watch baby for a couple of hours while you get some extra sleep.”

“Just wait! Adding another kid is going to be so hard! It’s a game changer!”

This is another kind of comment that raises anxiety and fear during pregnancy when there’s already enough there as it is. Most pregnant women are already stressing about how they are going to adjust to adding a new member to their family, or becoming a parent for the first time, and they really need to feel support and empowerment from those around them. If you’re worried about someone you know and their ability to adjust, or if they are expressing concern about it, a helpful way to respond would be, “When your baby comes, how can I help you? I’m confident you’ll adjust just fine, but how can I help to make the transition less stressful for you?”

“Can I touch your belly?”

While it is better to at least ask than simply run up to a pregnant woman and start rubbing their stomach, it’s usually better just not to ask at all. Rule of thumb-if it’s something you wouldn’t do to someone that’s not pregnant, it doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily like it even though they are pregnant. Different people have different comfort levels when it comes to personal space, and most women I’ve talked to who have experienced pregnancy (myself included) don’t wish to be touched in this way. However, even by asking, they are placed in the awkward position to either have to tell you “no,: or just go along with it even though they feel uncomfortable. If you’re just dying to touch someone’s pregnant belly, maybe “feel them out” first. Ask them how they’ve felt about this subject, or how they’ve responded to this before in order to get an idea of whether of not they’d be okay with you asking. Otherwise, simply wait for an invitation. If you have the type of relationship with someone where they’d want you to feel their belly, they will likely get excited when they start to feel kicks and ask you if you’d like to feel.

“Can I be in the delivery room when your baby is born?”

This is another situation where you simply need to wait for an invitation. Giving birth can be an incredibly stressful and overwhelming experience (not to mention a personal one). I’ve known of women who ended up allowing people in the room they didn’t want to have in there, simply because they didn’t want to say “no.” They then are deprived of the type of delivery experience they wanted. If you want to be truly supportive of the arrival of a baby, allow the parents of that child to decide what type of experience they want. If they want you in the room, they’ll ask.

I realize that these type of comments aren’t meant to be harmful, and that by in large, people are often just trying to express their excitement about and support of a pregnancy. If you have been guilty of these types of comments, don’t feel bad! None of us is perfect, and we often don’t realize the way something can come across. Hopefully after reading through some of the alternatives, you feel better equipped to connect with the pregnant women in your life.

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Beating Depression

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Many people that struggle with depression have tried a myriad of ways to manage it:

Some have tried the frequently suggested “boot strap” approach. You know, pick yourself up by the bootstraps and forge ahead. As if willing your way to work or school will cause the depression to just go away.

Now I am not suggesting that moving forward in a determined fashion isn’t a good idea. In fact, I believe that it can help and am a huge proponent of putting your best effort on the table. What I am suggesting is that there might be an overall better way. A way that you may not have not have considered as viable for you (0r your spouse or family member that struggles with depression). What is it?

It involves Healing Outdoors.

It involves making a concerted effort to be outside in Utah’s wondrous outdoors. It involves actually enjoying it.

Understanding that depression is difficult to manage or treat, I provide these 5 hopeful ways to beat depression outdoors.

#1) Get Outside in the Garden and Yard

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10 Things To/Not To Say To A Single Person

10 Things (WFT)
While in grad school, I had the opportunity to study the experience young adults are having being single in today’s world. I had particular interest in the topic given that I myself am single and work with single people regularly in my therapy practice. After a year of study and research, I was asked to share what I learned at a regional mental health conference.

Early on in my presentation, a man in the audience (probably mid 50’s) raised his hand and asked, ”so why aren’t you married?” Thinking it was a joke, I chuckled and quipped back with something to the effect of, “That’s a great question, and I’d love to know the answer when you figure it out!” Everyone in the room laughed except for this gentleman. After clearly not answering his question, he fired back more intently: “No really, what’s wrong with all of these single people today? What’s keeping you guys from getting married?” By the looks on the faces of the audience members (a mix of single and married individuals), it was safe to say that the majority of us were taken aback by the question. Realizing that he wasn’t trying to be funny, I did my best to address his question as professionally as possible without becoming emotionally reactive. However, inside I was thinking, “how dare he ask me to defend/expose one of my greatest insecurities in front of this audience?” Another part was able to look past the abrasiveness of the delivery and focus on the underlying issue at hand. Which is, because relationships (or the lack thereof) are so personal, sometimes it’s hard for us to know how to talk about them.

Ironically, the core message of my presentation focused on understanding the experience, pressures, and judgement young single adults face in today’s society. I genuinely believe that my new friend had no malicious intent. Rather, he used poor tact when asking an honest question.

So, in hopes that we can promote more safety/support and less judgement in our conversations, here are 10 suggestions of “things no to” and “things to” say to your single friends:

10 Things NOT To Say To A Single Person
1. You are such a catch! I’m surprised you aren’t married yet.
2. What about ______? They’re single too!
3. I wish I was single again. Life was so much easier.
4. Maybe you’re just being too picky.
5. Don’t worry, there are always more fish in the sea.
6. Maybe you’re just not putting yourself out there enough.
7. You need to hurry and get married or you won’t be able to have kids.
8. Look aren’t everything-they will change after you’re married.
9. Your time will come. I just know it.
10. You’re probably having too much fun being single, huh?

 

10 Things TO Say To A Single Person
 
1. You are such a catch.
2. Let me know if you like being set up. I know some really good people.
3. Do you want to talk about dating? Or would you rather not?
4. I think you’re great. You deserve to find someone you think is great too.
5. You really seemed to like _______. I’m sorry that things didn’t work out.
6. I’ve noticed that you’ve been doing _________. How is that going?
8. I would really love for you to find someone you’re compatible with.
9. What do you have coming up that you’re looking forward to?
10. I’m headed to ________. Would you like to join me?
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ANXIETY! How Being Anxious Can Affect You

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Anxiety is a unique mental health symptom because it is something that in some way affects everyone. Yes, everyone! Anxiety does not care who you are; it can have its effect on you. Anxiety can strike at a variety of times. Many people may recognize some of the physical symptoms before they are mentally aware that they are anxious. Learning to recognize the warning signs of anxiety can help us find relief before anxiety spirals out of control.

I previously worked with a young woman who was highly ambitious, extremely successful in school, was social, seemed to have it all together, and… had anxiety. Her anxiety symptoms were primarily physical: chronic vertigo, sleeplessness, and lethargy. Because of their physical nature, she was not aware they were linked to her mental health, and they went untreated for far too long. For this young woman, the start of her treatment was learning to recognize the warning signs; which, for her consisted of worrying, angst, and over stretching herself by not being assertive with peers. Learning to recognize our warning signs can help us to manage our anxiety appropriately.

Some physical warning signs of anxiety consist of the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Feelings of numbness in limbs
  • Nausea or Diarrhea
  • Feelings of fatigue or weakness
  • Sleep disturbance

You might be asking yourself, “Well, I have some of these symptoms. What can I do to overcome them?” Thankfully, there are a number of things that we can all do to manage anxiety appropriately.

Therapy is a great way for anyone to be able to explore these symptoms and what might be causing them in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Having a therapist who you can discuss these anxious feelings with and determine possible causes can bring symptoms of relief. During a session, the mental health counselor will discuss an individual’s’ specific situations and possible solutions. A study done by Quast (2014) found that therapy has a positive effect on the reduction of symptoms of anxiety.

Anxiety can also be treated at home with a few simple things. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere anytime. This technique allows individuals to bring more awareness to their current situation by assessing their thoughts, feelings, senses, and how their body feels. The more people practice mindfulness, the easier it can be to overcome anxiety. Mindfulness tool can be found in phone apps; such as, Headspace. These apps provide a great way to begin a mindful daily structured routine. Mindfulness can be as simple as yoga, meditation, coloring, or drawing.  The use of mindfulness alone has been shown to reduce worrying and helps to prevent the negative effects of anxiety (Hoge, Bui, Goetter, Robinaugh, Ojserkis, Fresco, and Simon, 2014).

Deep belly breathing can be an easy way to overcome anxiety in any situation. At times when I get frustrated or anxious, I stop what I am doing to take three deep breaths. While taking these deep breaths, make sure the amount of time you inhale, hold the breath, and exhale are five seconds or more. During these breaths, ensure that your breath is coming deep from your stomach and rather short breaths from your chest. While working with children, I recommend that they “fill their balloon” which is their diaphragm, or stomach area. If you have done yoga, this is like abdominal breathing or ujjayi breath. After completing these breaths, your body will be back in a more relaxed state.

The young woman I mentioned above could overcome many of the physical symptoms of her anxiety by seeing a therapist who helped her recognize her triggers, negative thoughts, and by building healthy habits; such as, mindfulness and deep breathing. Anxiety should not be the one in control in your life. You can take back control by utilizing the techniques mentioned above.

If you continue to struggle with managing your stress or anxiety, do not hesitate to contact us at Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555.  Together, we can learn further tools to help you through your specific challenges.

Quast, A. (2014). Yogerapy: An Integrated Yoga and Cognitive-Behavioral, Family-Based Intervention for Children with Anxiety Disorders in High Achieving Environments. Ph.D. of Pyschology. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, 2014. Print.

Hoge, E., Bui, E., Goetter, E., Robinaugh, D., Ojserkis, R., Fresco, D., & Simon, N. (2014). Change in Decentering Mediates Improvement in Anxiety in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Cognitive Therapy and Research Cogn Ther Res, 228-235.

Nathan Watkins, MFT INTERN

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What Every Parent Should Know About “Happily Ever After”

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On any given day, kids and teens may feel joy, wonder, disappointment, rage, jealousy, and endless other emotions. Yet, many kids will inevitably learn from parents or peers that “happy” is the only emotion acceptable to express or even experience. “Happiness” in our culture tends to reign supreme as the highest aspiration – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is what we are taught to aim for – what we all deserve.

I commonly hear parents say to their kids:

  1. I just want you to be happy.
  1. “How can you be so down? Just look at all you have to be happy about.”
  1. Just focus on the positive. You’re dragging everyone down.”

Though these parents have good intentions, their statements might imply that if kids are not contented, they are somehow failing, or that happiness is the only feeling others are comfortable with. Children may respond to these messages by feigning a cheerful disposition and generally suppressing negative feelings to please parents. Unfortunately, suppressing feelings can compromise a child’s psychological well-being and fuel unhealthy behaviors.

Pain is a critical part of the human experience and in most cases, it is healthiest to confront it head on. Encourage children to acknowledge and accept emotions, such as anger or hurt, by using mindfulness meditation strategies. If your child seems overwhelmed by her emotions, encourage her to find a way to express them: talk to someone she trusts, write in a journal, create a work of art, or see a mental health therapist. Let us teach children that no one’s life is solely full of sunshine and that to live fully, we must stand in the occasional rainstorm.

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